The Crowd: There And Back Again [255]

Hi Crowd!

The first time I visited Venice, Italy (Or Venezia if you are fancy) it was the era just before ubiquitous high speed mobile data and as such I spent a lot of time trying not to get lost, usually failing. If you've been there you know the entire city is a maze of small twisting streets that wind their way through buildings built on top of other buildings and passageways that dead end in water. I had to double back, retrace steps and try again. Always looking around for something recognizable to locate against. And I got the feeling everyone else was doing the same, which was somehow charming. I visited again last month as part of the final Bright Moments city event and the beginning of the Venice Biannual and the experience was totally different. (Without even talking about the water levels) This time I noticed immediately that everyone, myself included, was heads down staring at a map on our phones, perfectly navigating the labyrinth like city–but missing everything along the way. At some point on the trip I decided to stop knowing where I was going. I wanted to get lost and figure it out along the way. It took longer, and I got lost, but it was much more interesting. One constant through all of my visits, is thinking about how fucking annoying all of us street wanderers must be to everyone who lives there. And rather than pretend it wasn't the case, I went ahead and embraced it with this classic street photo for a classic European city. As this was all fresh on my mind, I decided to make this my SB24 photo for the month, it's available today if you are into such things.

I mentioned earlier that I've started carrying around a very small notebook to try and jot down things as I think of them, because more often these days I'm thinking of things while walking around and then by the time I get where I'm going I've forgotten them. My set up of the moment is a pocket sized Twone notebook and a Pen Type-C. These are both sort of perfectly designed products in my mind, and while there are other small notebooks and other small pens, this thoughtful minimalism and noticeable quality here really sets them apart. In a recent office reorg Tara and I realized we have about 100 various blank notebooks of different shapes and sizes and joked that we never need to buy a notebook again, but I also realized we have all those because they don't work for us. Or don't work for me anyway. Despite best intentions if it's too big I won't use it. If it feels janky and I can't trust that it won't fall part or break in some way, I won't use it. For years I tried to be a devote of the famous Moleskine but they were a little too large for my pockets and the thing that rekt them for me was that the elastic band which holds them closed is a total piece of shit that loses it's elasticity pretty quickly becoming this floppy string which is useless. So yes we have a bunch in this drawer now, but I don't think I'll ever pick one up. A 6 pack of Twones is less than $15 and I'll actually use them.

That might have felt like a weird transition but walking around getting lost in Venice was a prefect example of this. I had to force myself to just stop and write because I found that the mental shift from "Oh that's important, I should write it down, let me find a place to stop and sit for a while and maybe I'll have a coffee while I'm writing or just sit in this courtyard somewhere that isn't in direct sunlight or maybe..." was enough to cause me to forget the thing I wanted to write down the the first place.

One of those things I realized while walking around alone, after traveling to the other side of the world largely to see other people, was that I don't know how to find anyone anymore. Back in the dark ages we had one app and everyone was there so finding people was easy. And then we had an app which literally told us where our friends were, and then finding people was easy. Now there are dozens of apps each with dozens of private groups. So for example even being "on Telegram" doesn't matter if you aren't in the right group, and which apps you are on only matter in so much as they overlap with what apps other people are on, and if you are on them at the same time. This is something I've experienced more and more in the last year or so and have seen more people expressing their own struggles with as well. We all fly to these cities to see each other and then can't find each other while there. All of this tech with the intention of bringing us closer together ends up just making us feel more lonely. I'd wager that in Venice I had better luck picking a seat with a view and just sitting there for a while until a friend walked past than using any kind of app to coordinate with people. Which kind of makes me want to delete all the apps.

This is part of a larger pull towards minimizing everything I've been feeling recently, if you've followed me for a while you know I go through these waves but this one is feeling especially heavy and I'm kind of applying it across the board. I want fewer things that do fewer things, so I can do things with them better. For May I'm trying to avoid all social media except Warpcast. I don't know if I'll be successful in that, but I'm trying. I'm also ruthlessly listing music gear on craigslist and trying to minimize my set up, moving away from "maybe someday I'll want the option to do this" and towards "whats the one thing I want to do right now." I always think of this Steve Albini interview I saw a few years ago where he was talking about having sold a now famous microphone that Kurt Cobain had used just after he used it, and saying something like "we don't have room around here for anything we aren't using every day" and I like that thinking a lot. I'm a collector by nature so I obviously have some carve outs, but I deeply want to dial those back with function playing a much stronger role. I have some synths that, even though I've owned them for years, I've never really figured out and never really used, but always thought maybe someday I would. So yeah, those are gone.

There's news to talk about but it's all horrible so I don't want to. Bombs. Bird Flu. Protests. The world looks really dark to me right now. Which is maybe perfect walk around with a camera weather. I'm not trying to end on a down note, I'm just saying that I'm thinking about the hours that I have available to me and how I want to spend them. Right now making things sounds a lot better than watching everything else be destroyed.

Hope you are good.


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